The most common drugs used to prevent the immune system from attacking the body are cyclosporine and prednisone (a type of steroid). Other drugs that can be used include tacrolimus and mycophenolate. These drugs prevent or treat GVHD by suppressing your body's immune system.
Unfortunately, they also increase your risk of developing infections because they prevent your body from fighting off germs. These drugs help many patients, but not all.
Besides weakening your immune system, immunosuppressants can also affect the way you look and feel.
- They may cause:
- Depression or anxiety
- Mood swings
- Weight gain
- Bloated face
- Extra hair growth, especially on the face and back
If your treatment affects your mood or personality, understanding that these changes are caused by your treatment may help you and your family and friends deal with the changes. Keep in mind that these effects are temporary and will go away when you are done with your treatment. Many people do not experience these side effects. Pay attention to symptoms and report them early to get the most effective treatment possible.
Some ways to manage these changes include:
- Ask your doctor whether he or she can adjust your treatment or prescribe drugs to lessen the changes in your emotions.
- Seek support from your family and friends.
- Join a support group of transplant survivors where you can share your experiences. It can help to talk to others who are dealing with similar challenges. (A support group may also be helpful for your family and friends.)
- Get support from a professional counselor.
Cyclosporine is an immunosuppressant used by many transplant patients. Always take cyclosporine exactly as directed, at the same time(s) each day and in the same relation to meals. Take the tablet form with a full glass of water. The oral solution may be mixed with specific beverages. FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS CAREFULLY. Always measure dosages exactly and mix with the same beverage for consistent dosage. Stir well and drink immediately. Do not allow to stand. Do not eat grapefruit or drink grapefruit juice while taking cyclosporine.
Possible side effects of cyclosporineNotify your doctor immediately if you develop:
- Fever or chills
- Sore throat
- Unusual bleeding or bruising
- Mouth sores
- Abdominal pain
- Darkened urine
These symptoms could be early signs of dangerous side effects.
Prednisone is a steroid used to reduce inflammation and suppress the immune system. As with cyclosporine, take it exactly as directed. Never skip a dose or stop taking it on your own. You will be closely monitored through blood testing and your doctor will adjust your dose as needed.
Possible side effects of prednisoneNotify your doctor immediately if you experience:
- Sensitivity to sunlight
- Fluid retention
- High blood pressure
- Loss of muscle mass
- Bone weakness
- Changes to the skin
- Numbness or tingling
- Cataracts or glaucoma
Your medical team will discuss all the precautions and side effects of your medications with you, and help you manage any complications.